"Je ne vous dirai point, mon très cher fils" Correspondance de Catherine de Charrière de Sévery 1780-1783
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This dissertation examines the principles of education imbued in a three year correspondence between an eighteenth century woman and her teenage son from the French speaking region of Vaud, current day Switzerland. Despite her great respect for the literature and ideas of the new pedagogues of the Enlightenment, especially J.J. Rousseau and Mme de Genlis, Catherine de Charrière de Sévery maintained the traditional perspective of education of the Ancien Régime. To explore the concepts of education and instruction through the epistolary practice, this research is based on the corpus of 107 letters that Mme de Sévery wrote to her son Vilhelm between 1780 and 1783. Additional documents - among them Mme de Sévery’s diaries - from the particularly rich archival holdings of this aristocratic family have been used to complement her correspondence. Most previous studies on family correspondence have dealt with mothers to daughters, or fathers to sons, whereas this research is centered on letters between a mother and her son. The location of this family – Lausanne and the Pays de Vaud – provides a particular regional perspective due to two factors: immersion into a region uniformly Protestant, and the dual-influence of Germanic and French cultures. The study analyzes the educational principles that appear throughout Mme de Sévery’s letters by comparison with three literary works of the 18th century: a familiar correspondence, the Lettres du Lord Chesterfield à son fils (1776); the fundamental education treatise by J.J. Rousseau, Émile, ou de l’Éducation (1762); and a pedagogical treatise written by Mme de Genlis as an epistolary novel, Adèle et Théodore, ou lettres sur l’éducation. Using letters as the main tool to guide her son’s upbringing, Mme de Sévery highlights the moral and family values that are most important to her and leads him to find his place in society.